Controversy as Nigerian Lawyers get factional association, Law Society of Nigeria
A new professional association of lawyers surfaced on Sunday in Nigeria, threatening to end the monopoly of the 89-year-old Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The association, known as the Law Society of Nigeria (LSN), is led by Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN).
But the association has already found itself in the murky waters of controversy, as a founding member disagreed with its purported leadership as announced by its national publicity secretary.
LSN, which described itself as a “new sheriff in town” announced its appearance through a statement issued by its national publicity secretary, Douglas Ogbankwa.
The number of lawyers produced in the country was 197,105 as of July 2021.
Legal practitioners in Nigeria had been regulated solely under the umbrella of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) founded in 1933.
But there have been failed attempts to split the association, the last being the August 2020 move by two lawyers, Mr. Nuhu Ibrahim and Mr. Abdulbasit Suleiman, to form the New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA).
Ogbankwa said in the statement that LSN emerged in a bid to redefine the ideas of the founding fathers of the legal profession.
He described the legal profession in Nigeria as having a chequered history spanning from “the sublime to the ridiculous”.
Ogbankwa said that LSN was established to keep the legal practice in Nigeria in line with international best practices.
“In redefining the ideas of the founding fathers of the legal profession in Nigeria, the LSN called the Nigerian Bar, has been established.
“This is in keeping with international best practices, which allow for an alternative, to ensure that lawyers thrive within the realm of those they have shared values with,” he said.
According to Ogbankwa, in a letter dated October 24, the protem National Executive Committee of LSN notified the Body of Benchers of the association’s existence and its national officers.
He said: “The LSN, with membership, spread all over Nigeria, exists to empower the legal profession with quality member services, facilitate access to justice, maintain and advance the cause of justice, and promote the rule of law through advocacy and good governance.”
He listed the executives of LSN as follows: Ogunba (SAN), President: Mr. Nimi Walson-Jack, Vice President; Mr Abdulqadir Alhaji Sani, Secretary; Mr. Olasupo Ojo, Welfare Secretary; and Mrs Chioma Ferguson, Treasurer.
Other executive members are: Mr. Douglas Ogbankwa, Publicity Secretary; Mr. Zara Umar Yakubu, Financial Secretary; Mrs. Alice Ogaku Awonugba, Assistant Secretary; and Mr. Hassan Sheriff, Assistant Publicity Secretary.
But LSN convener and founding secretary, Richard Oma Ahonaruogho (SAN), disowned Society’s executive, issuing a disclaimer to the statement of the purported LSN interim leaders.
He asked all Nigerian lawyers and the Body of Benchers to disregard the “hasty announcement”.
Ahonaruogho said: “My attention has just been drawn to the purported Executive Committee of the Law Society of Nigeria (NLS) and I hereby wish to assure all Legal Practitioners in Nigeria that the purported Executive Committee is unknown to the Law Society of Nigeria (NLS).
“The NLS was incorporated on 28th December, 1994, by my good self, Richard Oma Ahonaruogho, as Convener and as Secretary with Mr. Charles I. Idehen as Chairman.
“The idea was to save the NBA from self-destruction after the 1992 Port Harcourt crises and we have over the years reviewed the need to keep the Nigerian lawyers under the main umbrella of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).”
While acknowledging that recent events in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have led to an increasing agitation for the full commencement of activities of the LSN, he described as hasty the letter sent to the body of benchers by some representative of the persons now claiming to be Executives of the LSN as consultations are still ongoing on the issue.
He admitted that he held a meeting with one of the promoters of the Law Society of Nigeria on 6th October 2022, in Lagos, where the appeal for the commencement of full activities of the LSN was tabled, considered, and deferred for further consultations with some of the other key promoters and the sole surviving trustees.
The SAN also disclosed that the logo and Motto – Justice For All on the purported letter claiming to be that of the LSN are alien to the Law Society of Nigeria (NLS) and amount to the tort of passing-off.
“In conclusion on behalf of the Promoters of the Law Society of Nigeria (LSN) and as Founding Secretary, I hereby state categorically that NO EXECUTIVE has been appointed for the Law Society of Nigeria as at today, Sunday 30th October, 2022, and that the purported notice should be disregarded,” Ahonaruogho added.
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